Just months after the death of legendary Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto comes the news of another J-fashion icon's passing. KENZO founder Kenzo Takada has died due to coronavirus complications last weekend. He was 81. As one of the very first Asian figures to conquer Western runways, we look back at his legacy, below.
Bringing the colours of Japan to Paris
Fans of Takada and his brand would know that he found his home away from home in the fashionable city of Paris. Despite being born in a family of hoteliers, he chose his passion for art and eventually moved to pursue his Parisian dreams in the '60s. In the '70s, he humbly founded his colourful fashion label, eventually extending to perfumery laced with both Western and Eastern influences.
His designs were loud, colourful, and unique — a reflection of his expectations of what fashion in Paris should be like. He previously expressed that when he arrived in the city and found out it looks “dismal and bleak” — far from what he had expected from a place dubbed one of the world’s fashion capitals — he decided to bring colour (in the form of fabrics) from Japan and use it to start his fashion journey.
What’s interesting about this storied beginning is that it was so meticulously strategic, it was almost genius. With no money to his name after he moved to Paris, he built his first fashion showcase in a worn-down shopping centre with the help of his friends, hired amateur models to save money, and invited only 20 people — one of which was Catherine Rousso, then editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine. She loved the collection so much that one of the pieces graced the cover of the publication. This launched mass interest over Takada’s work overnight.